Packers 2016 Schedule: Welcome to Funkytown

Clearly, it takes something like the NFL schedule release to wake me from my slumber. Thanks for hanging in there and checking in periodically. The Head Cheese is back from the dead. I'll post my seven round Packer mock early in draft week.

But for now, let's take a look at how the season lays out. The schedule is about as funky as any in recent memory, with all kinds of quirks. We'll get to those in a minute, but first, big picture: the Packers have the easiest schedule on paper, based on last year's records. That doesn't mean much, but the AFC South and NFC East were the least competitive divisions last year.

If Las Vegas put lines on each of the Pack's games right now, the Pack would likely be favored in 15 games (the week 2 game of the century to christen US Bank Stadium the only one where they would likely be underdogs).

Now for the funkiness: For the first time in more than 80 years, the Pack opens with two on the road. Then they're home until week 8, with a way-too-early week four bye week thrown in for good measure. November features a three game road trip (Packers are one of two teams with the dreaded three game trip), including back-to-back prime timers in Washington and Philly.

They return home to begin their December and January slate with home games against the Texans and Seahawks and then three divisional games to close, with two on the road and a Christmas Eve day game against the Vikes in-between in Week 16.

There are definitely challenges in the back half of the schedule, beginning with that long trip. So the Pack needs to jump out of the gate quickly, at worst splitting the two road games to open and then winning those next four home games.

So let's walk through it now, in early April. We'll revisit is post-draft and well into training camp when we have a much better idea what this team looks like. But for now:

Week One is a bit dangerous because the Jags are a team on the rise, with an improving young QB, a pair of dynamic receivers and a nice RB tandem of Chris Ivory and TJ Yelden. Gus Bradley's defense expects to improve, with last year's top 5 pick Dante Fowler returning along with a high draft pick. But the stadium will be filled with Cheeseheads and the Pack will win a close one.

Week Two is a doozy, with the Pack helping the Vikes open their shiny new bird deathtrap in prime time on Sunday night football. The atmosphere will be electric and we will see the fewest Cheeseheads we will ever see at a Vikings-Packers game as tickets will be extremely tough to come by. The Vikings will need to control their emotions and not make this one more than it really is, an early season divisional game that they need to win, because they're at home. I'll give this one to the Purple.

Week 3 the Packers get revenge on last year's debacle against the Lions. The Lambeau home opener will be a laugher as the Pack get back on track and begin a nice run of wins. They'll rest up in Week 4 and then welcome three straight teams to Lambeau, two of them in prime time. Pesky Eli and the Giants always give the Packers problems, but coming off a bye, on Sunday Night Football, the Pack takes care of business. Ditto with a 3:25 national game against the Cowboys, who will likely be much improved, assuming Tony Romo is healthy. The Pack completes the trifecta with a win on a short week over the Bears on Thursday night.

The 5-1 Packers hit the road on October 30th, their first road game since September 18th, after having ten days to prepare for the Falcons. The extra rest should serve the team well and they get past the dirty birds and return home to face Andrew Luck and the Colts in another late afternoon national start. The Colts figure to bounce back this season, but they're not winning at Lambeau. The Pack close out the first half at 7-1.

The season's second half opens with the three game road trip. I figure the Pack will handle Tennessee to open the trip and will split the next two at night. Call it a loss (avenging the playoffs) in Washington and a bounce back win in Philly. The Pack returns home to kick off December with home games against the Texans and Seahawks, win and win.

So the Packers are 11-2 with three games left, all division games. I think the Bears somehow get a win at Soldier Field and the Pack rebounds in Week 16 for revenge against the Vikes. That puts them at 12-3 and heading to Motown for the season finale. This one could go either way, but I get the feeling the Lions will be well out of the mix and thinking about their post-season plans. Packers win and finish 13-3.

That should be enough to win the North and play a home game or two at Lambeau. I'll get back to you in four months and see if I remain as bullish. But despite all the funkiness in how the schedule lays out, the Packers should be positioned to make another run.

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